Fisker Recalls Karma; EV Maker Blasted by Rival Elon Musk

A123 logoThe electric vehicle fire in Woodside, Calif. about a week ago has led to the third recall in the short life of taxpayer-subsidized ($193 million in stimulus) Fisker Automotive and its plug-in hybrid model, the Karma.

The first two recalls were caused by problems with batteries produced by Fisker’s similarly troubled supplier and business partner, A123 Systems. The company said this time the fire was caused by a failure in a cooling fan, which caused overheating while the vehicle’s owner shopped for groceries inside a store. About 2,400 Karmas – 1,400 of which are in the possession of customers – will need to be recalled.

“We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction,” said executive chairman Henrik Fisker. “This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As … Read More ➡

DOE’s Derelict Judgment Makes Abound Solar a Tax Scofflaw

Abound logoBankrupt manufacturer Abound Solar, which is liquidating despite having received $70.9 million in taxpayer-backed loans from the Department of Energy, may leave government services in its former Weld County, Colo. home in trouble because of diminished property tax revenues.

The Greeley Tribune reported last week that Abound owes nearly $1 million for this year and by next year will have accumulated $1.8 million in county tax debt. As a result various school, public safety and other government services departments will have to look at budget cuts. The school district where Abound’s taxes went to, in St. Vrain Valley, will have to absorb more than a half-million dollars in lesser revenues because of the company’s failure.

Every county, city and community deals with property tax losses due to foreclosures and business closings, but the Abound Solar/Weld County example is one in which an unworthy company, that was the beneficiary of crony Read More ➡

New Fisker Fire, While Taxpayers Cover Utility Bills for Empty Plant

Fisker logoAnother government-funded electric vehicle has burned.

This time it’s the second fire in a Fisker Karma, which received $193 million out of a $529 million award from a Department of Energy loan guarantee before the cabinet agency cut the company off for failure to meet still-undisclosed milestones. This blaze (video), according to a report on the automotive Web site Jalopnik, occurred in a Woodside, Calif. parking lot while its owner was inside a store shopping for groceries.

In another development, the State of Delaware has been stuck paying more than $400,000 in utilities bills for a vacant factory that Fisker was supposed to occupy and use to manufacture its next electric car model, the Atlantic.

As for the fire, Fisker has acknowledged the incident. 

“We have more than 1,000 Karmas on the road with a cumulative 2 million miles on them,” the company said in a statement published … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Funded A123 May Get a Chinese Bailout

A123 logoMonths ago, after they issued their most recent dismal quarterly earnings report, A123 Systems officials announced they would explore options in order to save the company, leaving the impression they were looking for a buyer. 

On Tuesday the heavily subsidized electric vehicle battery manufacturer released its latest financial bad news, but also disclosed that it also had a potential buyer – from China. According to media reports, just as A123 reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, good news also magically materialized as Wanxiang Group Corp. was announced as a new investor. A123 had reported recently to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its ability to continue as a viable company was “a going concern.”

The good news/bad news announcements continue a trend by A123 in which every time the company has a negative media hit or stock downturn, a new press release comes out to give the … Read More ➡

Consumers Complain Nissan Leafs Lose Power in Hot Weather

Nissan LeafSo far American taxpayers have been forced – through stimulus loan guarantees from the Department of Energy – to “invest” $1.4 billion in a Japanese car company to build an unproven, impractical, expensive vehicle at a Tennessee power plant.

And now it can’t stand the heat.

Nissan has been dealing with complaints from owners of its Leaf electric car who reside in hot-weather states like Arizona, who say their vehicles have lost range capacity.

“When I first purchased the vehicle, I could drive to and from work on a single charge, approximately 90 miles round trip,” said one Phoenix-area Leaf owner to CBS television affiliate KPHO. Now, “I can drive approximately 44 miles on this without having to stop and charge.”

The usefulness of an electric car that costs at least twice the equivalent gas-powered vehicle, at a 90-mile range, that requires hours to fully recharge, is dubious … Read More ➡

Former Temp CEO Rebuts Allegations of Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers

Bill Johnson photoAs the North Carolina Utilities Commission tries to make sense of the farcical events that surround its approval of the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the largest public electricity company in the nation, the deeper they dig, the dumber Duke looks.

Yesterday the 6-member panel (one seat is unfilled due to political wrangling) heard from former Progress CEO Bill Johnson (pictured). Throughout the 18-month merger process the two companies proclaimed to anyone who cared – including federal regulators, utilities commissions in at least six states, and Wall Street – that Johnson would carry that role over to the combined company, while former Duke CEO James Rogers would elevate to chairman.

Instead, according to Johnson’s testimony, within two hours after directors from both companies offered “handshakes, pats on the back, congratulations all around,” he was jettisoned and replaced by Rogers. The hearings were covered by most of … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Backed Yet Cash-Poor A123 Stock Hits All-Time Low

A123 logoA week and a half ago cash-poor A123 Systems, recipient of $279 million-plus in federal money and millions more from the State of Michigan, announced it would access $39 million via a stock sale to institutional investors and the release of other cash after meeting requirements related to its existing reserves.

It has been downhill ever since – all the way down to its all-time low of 75 cents per share price Tuesday (and 69 cents Thursday morning). It may be too much for even these masters of the press release cycle to overcome by creating good news out of thin air.

A123 is in the throes of a deathwatch. Occasionally its leadership has goosed its stock price by telling the media about real-or-phantom positive developments – like new contracts with automakers, new developments in China and India, or a technological breakthrough – but every time the … Read More ➡

Jim Rogers and Duke Energy Face Music Over Merger Power Grab

white Coke canThe tempest that followed the “boardroom coup” after Duke Energy’s merger with Progress Energy, in which former Progress CEO Bill Johnson was dismissed in favor of Duke CEO James Rogers, has only worsened since the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the deal last week.

Rogers testified before the NCUC on Tuesday, after the directors of the newly combined Duke jettisoned Johnson just hours after the regulatory approval, even though both companies asserted beforehand – ever since the expected deal was announced last year – that he would lead the united company, while Rogers moved up to chairman. Utilities commissioners, former Progress directors who approved the merger, and the public were deceived into believing Johnson would oversee day-to-day operations.

“Have we as the commission been misled or, as others have said, duped in this process to get approval of this merger?” Commissioner Susan Rabon asked. “I hope you … Read More ➡

Jim Rogers’s Power Grab Underscores Politicization of Duke Energy

Jim Rogers and windmill photoAfter a lengthy process that overcame a demanding review at the North Carolina Utilities Commission and two rejections by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Duke Energy won approval to merge with the Tar Heel State’s other major investor-owned utility, Progress Energy.

Then Duke’s board immediately pulled a fast one and fired the man they said all along would be the joint entity’s CEO, Bill Johnson, who would have continued from the same role he had with Progress. Instead leading the new combined company will be Duke’s current CEO, James Rogers. Throughout the merger approval process everyone understood he would abdicate that role to Johnson while remaining as company chairman.

The NCUC and state attorney general, Roy Cooper, were shocked by the move and are not pleased. Even less happy are many (now) former directors for Progress, who told the media last week that they never … Read More ➡

GE Solar Delay Shows Timing Will Never Be Good

solar panelsWe’ve heard this story before.

Much like taxpayer-backed Abound Solar – which just revealed it would declare bankruptcyGeneral Electric announced last week it would suspend construction of a solar panel manufacturing plant in Colorado. The excuse given was that GE plans to focus on research and development to improve the technology and efficiency of the panels it wants to produce.

“With the re-focus on technology, we’re sizing our team accordingly and really focusing our people on the technology side as we take this pause in the manufacturing build-out,” said Lindsay Theile, communications leader for GE’s renewable energy business, to the Web site Recharge.

That’s what officials at Abound said in February when the company – also based in the Centennial State – lopped off 70 percent of its employees while it allegedly performed upgrades to its plant to manufacture more efficient solar panels. That move followed an … Read More ➡

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